When Quiet Comes

Another long day. At home alone. With Dad at work. And little ones bickering.

While waiting for Dad to come home, I find my six-year-old sitting at her desk, writing with intense focus.

Her letter reads:

Dear Dad,
Parker wrote on his door.
He hit me in the stumuk (stomach).
He wakt (whacked) me on my head.
I love you.

I had addressed each of her little brother’s offenses when they occurred. But Brynn wanted something more. She wanted Dad to know.

Kids are, after all, prone to tattling.

And yet, I wonder if some of my “prayers” sound akin to tattling too. How many times have I written loud prayers of a similar quality to my Father?

Dear Father,
Friend A keeps gossiping.
Friend B hangs out with Friend A.
Friend C hasn’t called.
Please help.
I love You.

In other words, go get ‘em Dad.

Plenty of psalms echo the same sentiment. David sometimes said it like this:

“Vindicate me, O Lord.” (Psalm 7:8).

But these same loud prayers eventually give way to quieter ones. Prayers for guidance and wisdom and strength.

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long”      (Psalm 25:4-5).

When my prayers begin to reflect less of my feelings-in-the-moment and more of my deepest heart’s desires, quiet comes.

And I know my Father is home. He’s right here with me. And has been all along.

Do you have a favorite verse you like to pray?

Today, I’m joining Lisa-Jo, taking 5 minutes to write about “loud.”

Looking up verses: 4 minutes
Writing this post: 5 minutes
Uploading photo and link: 6 minutes
Spending Fridays with you: Priceless

A Gift of Words

My daughter just signed up for an S.A.T. prep course. For the next six weeks, she will spend every Wednesday night and Saturday morning preparing for the big exam.

You would think that taking the S.A.T. exam is a regular part of teenage life. But for me, this is unfamiliar territory.

When I was in high school, I never took the S.A.T. exam. In fact, I can’t remember having a single conversation with an adult about the possibility of taking the S.A.T. exam. Since no one in my family had ever gone to college, I guess nobody expected me to go either.

As soon as I was 18 and out of high school, I began working full-time.

Then I did something crazy. I went down to the local community college to sign up for some courses. I stood in line for hours, not even knowing if I was in the right line. There was no one there to help me. So I followed the masses.

After taking some “placement exams,” I was told which classes to enroll in.

So I stumbled along, semester after semester, wondering if I was making any headway.

Sometimes my work schedule got in the way of my class schedule, so I would have to withdraw from those classes and hope that my work schedule wouldn’t change mid-semester again the following term.

Going to college was like taking “one-step-forward-then-two-steps-back.”

Then I got married. And his job moved us to a new city almost every year. So I would enroll at a new community college and begin the process all over. If I was lucky, I would get to finish the semester before having to move again.

When I was 24, and the mother of a 2-year-old, I finally transferred to a small, private four-year university. I was beyond excited.

But when I arrived, I didn’t fit in. Everyone was between 18 and 21, and they were living in dorms together while I commuted to campus. They may have thought it was weird that another student was a wife and a mom!

I was lonely and plagued with self-doubt. Would I ever finish?

Then I went through a divorce. Eventually, he moved again—only this time, out of state.

For the next four years, it was just me and my little girl. I worked more than 40 hours a week at a minimum wage job, and I took classes at night, desperately trying to piecemeal together enough units for a diploma.

Finishing a degree—so I could get a better job so I could take care of myself and my daughter—was the only thing keeping me going.

I was 28 years old when I finished my degree.

One university. Five community colleges. Ten years.

Ten years of night classes.
Ten years of setbacks.
Ten years of wondering if I would ever actually make it.

By the time I graduated, Jeff and I had started dating. And the only three people who came to my graduation were Jeff, my 6-year-old daughter, and my mother. (I had invited my dad to come but he said he was too busy.)

So there I stood. In cap and gown.

For ten years, I had dreamed of this moment, thinking it would be one of the happiest moments of my life. But to my own surprise, a sadness that bordered despair clung to me. I felt alone. I wanted to celebrate, but I felt as if no one could truly understand what this diploma meant to me. Only God knew what that dark decade had really been like.

At the graduation ceremony, I went through the motions, telling myself that I was only doing this for my daughter.

Afterwards, Jeff gave me a heavy box, wrapped in paper. Inside was a two-volume dictionary set. He said that he special-ordered the largest dictionary set he could find.

He knew I loved words. He knew I loved making words up and stringing words together.

With both arms, I held the volumes. Jeff didn’t know how dark the previous ten years had been, but somehow, he knew what the next ten years would hold. He knew I would go on to graduate school to study composition—where those dictionaries would come in handy.

He knew I loved to write. So he gave me words.

And he promised to read every one I write.

A dictionary set might sound like the most unromantic gift ever. And for many, that might be true. But Jeff knew me better than I gave him credit for. To this day, that dictionary set is my favorite gift he has ever given me. For me, nothing could say “I love you” better.

He gave me words.

The more I think about it, I realize that God, in His amazing love, has given us a gift of words too. His words, in letters and stories and songs, speak life—to the lonely, to the poor, to the marginalized—to me.

Isn’t this the most beautiful gift that God has given? He gave His Son, the Word made flesh.

God gave us the Word!

I love words.

I love reading words.
I love writing words.

And right now, my daughter is studying a whole bunch of words for her S.A.T. exam. And I can’t even put into words how thrilled I am for her to have the opportunity to go to college.

I may have labored and struggled—for more than a decade—for the privilege to study and learn, but the Word has always been available to me. And around the world, men and women are willing to give up their lives for the privilege to study God’s Word.

They know, as I have come to learn, that the most important words we could ever study are the ones He has given us.

Have you read His gift of words to you today?
Is there someone you could give a gift of encouraging words to?

*Jeff and I will celebrate our ten-year wedding anniversary this spring. God is truly amazing.

Milestones in Motherhood

Taken 16 years ago ~ Before digital cameras

We begin charting the milestones early on.

Baby’s first smile.
Baby’s first step.
Baby’s first tooth.

A moment later, that first tooth is gone ~ tucked safely beneath the pillowcase.

Before long, there are more fun firsts.

First photo after the braces are gone.
First time shopping for homecoming.

First real date.

With time, the milestones continue to change. And they feel strange.

There’s the first checking account. The first car.

These days, when my daughter backs out of the driveway, leaving for school on her own, I think back to those first moments, when I kept her bassinet next to my side of the bed. I fell asleep every night with my hand on her belly—just to make sure she was breathing.

It was then that a tender, vacuous ache took up residence. An ache for her to be healthy and whole. An ache for her to make better choices and never know the same pain I have known.

When she was still a baby, I used to wonder if this ache would ever go away.

I’ve learned it doesn’t.

It just changes with time.

I’ve discovered that it’s a beautiful ache, for it means I want more for her. More peace. More joy.

It’s an ache that leads me, every time, to my knees, praying to the only One who loves her more than I.

With each new milestone, each new day, it’s an ache I embrace.

Have you celebrated a milestone with a cherished one lately?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:6-7

Looking up Bible Verse: 2 Minutes
Writing Post: 5 Minutes
Adding Photo & Links: 8 Minutes
Spending Fridays with All of You: Priceless

Today, I’m joining Lisa-Jo, taking 5 minutes to write about “ache.”